Pitches for Greinke aren’t strikes
Jerry Dipoto will never say never, because an opportunity might arise or Angels owner Arte Moreno might hand him the equivalent of a blank check to pursue a player like he did with Albert Pujols last winter.
But based on the general manager’s actions over the past 10 days and his comments as he left the winter meetings Thursday, it is clear that pitcher Zack Greinke will not be returning to Anaheim.
“We’re prepared to move on from Zack,” Dipoto said. “Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is make practical decisions.”
On Wednesday, the Angels agreed to terms with starter Joe Blanton for two years and $15 million and reliever Sean Burnett for two years and $8 million.
The Blanton deal essentially killed the chance of Greinke or top-of-the-market starters such as Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse or Edwin Jackson pitching in Anaheim next season.
“Nobody operates without a ceiling,” Dipoto said, when asked whether budget constraints pushed him toward Blanton.
The Angels had a record $159-million payroll in 2012, but they have shown no inclination to even approach that figure in 2013. With Blanton, the Angels have a payroll of about $142 next season. Greinke could command a deal in the six-year, $150-million range.
Blanton is a durable right-hander who has made at least 28 starts and thrown at least 175 innings in seven of the last eight years, but he has been no more than a No. 5 starter in recent seasons. The Angels also acquired right-handed starter Tommy Hanson from Atlanta last week for reliever Jordan Walden. But while Blanton and Hanson might be capable and less-expensive replacements for Ervin Santana, who was traded to Kansas City, and Dan Haren, who signed with Washington as a free agent, the loss of Greinke leaves a void.
Hanson and Blanton will join a rotation headed by Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, who is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams will compete for a spot, with Williams a long-relief candidate if he is not in the rotation.
The bullpen appears drastically improved, with free-agent acquisitions Ryan Madson and Burnett joining Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs as legitimate late-inning options.
“In the last 10 days, we’ve added four accomplished major league pitchers,” Dipoto said. “Some have upside, some have durability. We’ve plugged holes in a quality way. Building one-through-12 depth on the pitching staff has been our goal throughout.
“I feel like we have 11 guys in place now, and every one of them can take the mound and give us competitive innings. From that extent, I feel like we’re a pretty good team. ... We aren’t going to have to make further additions.”